Football Monday:

I promised this a few weeks back, but got occupied in LSU’s CWS run. But Monday’s here will be dedicated to LSU football (as well as Thursday’s), so let’s begin our first football Monday by breaking down LSU’s first opponent of the season, the Appalachian State Mountaineers.

The Mountaineers shocked the entire football world in the opening week of this past year’s season, going to the Big House and trumping Michigan 34-32. But Appalachian State was no fluke one-hit wonder and won 13 games and the NCAA Division I Championship, mostly due to a dominant offense that racked up 488 yards per game and 287 yards per game on the ground.

With most of the cast and crew from this past year’s attack still on the roster, the Mountaineers are again favorites to hoist the Division I Championship in the winter, but can Appy St. again shock the college football world in one of the most prestigious stadiums in college football? We won’t know the answer to that until August 30, but LSU fans know that the Mountaineers will not roll over and play dead for anyone, after watching the Mountaineers play tough in a 24-0 loss in Tiger Stadium in 2005.

Passing Game:

Top Returning Player:
Armanti Edwards: 148-222 1948 yards 17 TD 7 INT

Edwards is All-World for the Mountaineers and is, as my coworker once said, the “Tebow of the small schools”. Edwards is a dual threat maniac (more about that when we break down the running game), but the Mountaineer signal caller can keep defenses honest in the air, which opens up things for their potent rushing attack out of their spread option. If something were to happen to Edwards somewhere along the line, the Mountaineer ship would sink as fast as the Titanic.

Running Game:
Top Returning Players:

Armanti Edwards: 237 carries 1727 yards 21 TD
Devon Moore 95 carries 480 yards 7 TD

The Mountaineers lose their stud tailback Kevin Richardson who accumulated 1,394 yards and 16 touchdowns this past year, while also losing backup Trey Elder who piled up 546 yards. But Devon Moore did well in limited opportunities and with the way the Mountaineers’ offense is designed, anyone can get 100 yards a game if they are clicking, so their running attack will again be the strength of the team in 2008. The man who makes the running game click, like the passing attack, is Edwards, who piled up nearly seven yards a pop in last season.

The Mountaineers are as potent a running team as LSU will face all season, regardless of classification, so LSU must control the trenches if they want to keep Appy State off the scoreboard.

When the Mountaineers have their groove, they are orchestrating 7-8 minute, 14 play drives and keeping their sub-par defense off the field.

Receivers:

Top Returning Players:

CoCo Hillary: 23 catches 339 yards 0 TD
T.J. Courman: 18 catches 166 yards 0 TD

This will be the main piece of the puzzle the Mountaineers will have to solve for their offense to be as potent as in 2007. NFL draftees Dexter Jackson and Hans Batichon created a mix of speed and hands to give Appalachian State deep threats to keep the safeties back this past year. If they can not stretch the field this year, it’s bye-bye running game.

Defense:

The Mountaineer defense was just plain not-so-good this past year, but with a mainly underclassman bunch, they figure to be a much improved group this season. Jacque Roman, DJ Smith and Pierre Banks each return following 100+ tackle seasons, but the Mountaineers lost the heart of their secondary, losing corners Corey Lynch and Titus Howard, which will likely make Appalachian State susceptible to the big play early in the season.

Early Prediction: Appy State’s success makes them their own worst enemy. LSU, or anyone else for that matter, will ever overlook the Mountaineers ever again and LSU controls the trenches and rolls.

LSU 42
Appy State 13

We will look at LSU’s second opponent of the season next Monday.
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Wimbledon begins tomorrow and I will not spend much time on the tournament until later in the week, but I will briefly give you all my picks.

Men’s: Novak Djokovic – The reign of Federer is over. Djokovic will beat Federer (much like at the Australian Open) and prove that he and Nadal are now the world’s best .

Women’s: Venus Williams – Venus seems to prove year in and year out that she is the best grass player out there and I see this year as no different.

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I’ve given you recaps of two of the six divisions as next Thursday’s NBA Draft approaches. Time for Part III: The Southeastern Division.

Miami Heat:


Picks: 2

People think the Heat are in the easiest position in the draft and will simply draft who is left out of Michael Beasley and Derrick Rose, but the Heat need a point guard desperately and could consider OJ Mayo at No. 2 if Rose is off the board.

Orlando Magic:


Picks: 22

Orlando needs a center to move Dwight Howard back to PF and Rashard Lewis back to SF, or a scoring guard to move Maurice Evans to the bench. The latter will be easiest to find in their position and I suspect a player like Chris Douglas-Roberts can be on Orlando’s radar.

Charlotte Bobcats:


Picks: 9 and 38
Larry Brown is not in the “rebuilding” phase of his career, by any means, so I expect the Cats to trade their pick for a veteran, but if they keep it, they can go for a big like Roy Hibbert or Brook Lopez to compliment Emeka Okafor.

Atlanta Hawks:


Picks: None

This is the easiest one yet. The Hawks lost their first round pick to Phoenix via the Joe Johnson trade.

Washington Wizards:


Picks: 18 and 47

The Wizards are in a tough spot, because they do not know whether Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison will resign with the club. But assuming they both will, the Wizards will draft for size to beef up their weak front-line.

We begin to pick apart the Western Conference tomorrow.
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No. 5 Athlete:

It’s show-time. Time to begin the Top 5. We begin with America’s past time and a big-time blast from the past.

No. 5: Babe Ruth

The Bambino. The original Bronx Bomber. Babe Ruth hit .342 with 714 home runs and 2,217 RBI in his 20 year career with the Red Sox, Yankees and the Braves. Ruth’s home run records stood for decades before being broken by Hank Aaron, but there’s no disputing that Ruth was the original slugger, recording the MLB’s first 30, 40, 50 and 60 home run seasons in the “dead ball” era in baseball in which any double-digit home run season was out of the norm.

In fact, Ruth was also a decent-enough pitcher in his own right in the beginning of his career, earning 94 wins with a 2.28 career ERA.

Why he could be higher?
1. Legacy- Ruth has been finished playing for 80 years, but his name is still known by baseball players everywhere. How often is a lone player at the head of a curse within a franchise?

Why he could be lower?
1. Old-Timer- I can not think of any real reason why Ruth could be lower. Dude was as dominant as they come. The only argument that could be made is the “evolution” athlete that today’s athletes are “bigger, faster, stronger.”

But that was not Ruth’s fault and he was the best of his time and will be a baseball legend forever.
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Headlines:

Titans DE Kearse charged with DUI- “Da Freak” has been more-or-less “Da Joke” the past 3-4 years of his career. Looks like his second stint in Tennessee is off on the wrong foot.

Cubs Sweep ChiSox- These Cubs are legit, folks. I don’t want to say the “p” word, because I know they are herky-jerky about their superstitions, but the Cubs can win the pennant.

Fresno stuns UNC, advances to Final – So it will be the battle of the Bulldogs in the Finals of the CWS. How often does a 4-seed of a Regional make it to the CWS Finals? Answer: Never. They are the first to even make it to the CWS out of that spot, much less to be 2 wins from taking it all.

That’s all for me, folks. Happy Monday!

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